CRC CARE brings together industry, government, science and engineering to prevent, assess and clean up environmental contamination

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astkCARE™: anionic surfactant detection

The anionic surfactant test kit has been developed to provide a safe, sensitive and reliable method to detect and measure the concentration of highly toxic surfactants in the environment. These toxicity studies show surfactants can come from industrial and institutional cleaning solutions, industrial effluent or applications such as aqueous film-forming foams (AFFFs), or even personal hygiene products such as soaps, shower gels and domestic cleaning solutions. The low rate of biodegradability and residual toxicity of AFFFs and the effects of background levels of alkyl benzene sulfonates (which can affect reproduction of aquatic organisms) are two issues of environmental concern.

As used by the Department of Defence

This technology has been a significant development as part of the Department of Defence demonstration program and astkCARE™ kits are in wide use across Royal Australian Air Force (RAAF) defence bases.


astkCARE™ benefits include:

  • simple to use, does not require highly skilled operators and can be used in the field
  • achieves rapid results
  • cheaper and safer than established techniques that rely on hazardous solvents such as chloroform, which is used in existing methylene blue active substances (MBAS) assays
  • high specificity and reliability.

The ASTK research continues to evolve, with work now proceeding towards colour-response strips together with electronic sensing. This ongoing research targets safety, accuracy and cost-effectiveness through the availability of in-field performance technology. The technology is at an early stage of commercialisation.